Consumer Reports Study Finds EVs Suffer From Pesky Reliability Problems

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【Summary】New platforms, powertrains, and high-tech features make electric vehicles, even ones from mainstream brands, prone to have reliability issues over gas-powered cars.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Jan 05, 2021 7:40 AM PT
Consumer Reports Study Finds EVs Suffer From Pesky Reliability Problems

One of the major upsides to electric vehicle ownership over a vehicle with an internal combustion engine is less maintenance. They're generally more affordable to repair than similarly equipped gasoline-powered vehicles, too. But the majority of automakers that are introducing electric vehicles are coming out with electric vehicles for the first time. That means everything on modern electric cars are brand new. Naturally, as with other new things, there's bound to be a few issues before automakers really nail things down.

Issues Plague New EVs

According to Consumer Reports' latest reliability survey, a lot of new electric vehicles are plagued with reliability issues that make them hard to recommend. In the organization's most recent survey, the outlet's data revealed that the Audi e-tron, Kia Niro EV, and Tesla Model Y were some of the most troublesome EVs for consumers.

E-tron owners reported electrical failures with the drive system and issues with some of the vehicle's power equipment. Owners that recently purchased a Niro EV reported having to replace a bearing in the electric motor. Issues were larger with the Model Y, which suffered from build quality issues, including paint problems and problems with body alignment. Tesla's below-average build quality has been documented extensively, but it appears to continue to be a problem for the electric brand.

Because of these issues, Consumer Reports downgraded the E-tron and Niro EV from being recommended models. There's good news for consumers, as both automakers know about these issues and are working to fix the models. Kia told the outlet that it identified the issue on 2019 models and has already introduced a modification for future products. Audi is aware of the issues and is working on ways to address them.

As we touched on earlier, the organization's latest data on EVs reveals that electric cars can have more problems than vehicles with an internal combustion engine because they're being launched with new platforms, technology, and equipment. That essentially makes early model years test vehicles for automakers.

Are EVs Still Worth It?

"Often, it's not the EV tech that's problematic," said Anito Lam, CR's associate director of automotive data integration. "It's all the other new technology that could show up on any car – new infotainment systems, more sophisticated power equipment and gadgets – that often gets put on new EVs to feed a perception that they're supposed to be luxurious and high-tech."

That's why simpler electric vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Bolt EV, continue to earn relatively high reliability ratings from Consumer Reports compared to other electric cars. Other high-tech EVs, like the Model S and the Model X, have poor reliability ratings because they're packed with some of the most high-tech features on the market.

Since Consumer Reports claims that major components on electric vehicles, like the car's batteries and drivetrain, are often not the issue, we still think the positives far outweigh the negatives. But, if you're on the fence about diving right into the EV scene, Consumer Reports recommends waiting a few years for an automaker to iron out any small issues.

"In most cases, it takes a little time to get everything straightened out, as anyone who has ever bought the first version of a car knows," said Jake Fisher, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test center.

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